FUN. at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, 1/23/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Minneapolis
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
FUN. mastermind Nate Ruess has always seemed destined to play in front of crowds like Wednesday night's 5500-person gathering at St. Paul's Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Back when he fronted a more exploratory pop outfit with the Format in the early aughts, his songwriting was perpetually whimsical and his compositional skills typically extravagant. During his first banter with last night's ass-to-elbows crowd, an ecstatic Ruess said, "Every time we come to Minnesota, we've gotta play the biggest place we've played in our lives." While most dates on their tour will play out in theaters, FUN.'s boyish leader had no problem laying the ample floor space to waste during their roadshow kickoff.
FUN. at Myth, 4/13/12
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
Much like on record, the group's cheekiness is perpetually hit or miss. "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)" softened to a playful bridge where the loungy piano part conversed with both Ruess and guitarist Jack Antonoff -- once of Steel Train fame. It's a rare hint at craftsmanship past their constantly relied-upon 4/4 structure. Still, other moments like the braking turntable loop of "All Alone" never built to anything past fashionable servitude. Apparently the group couldn't stir that track's much-needed funkspiration during their five prior days of practice out at Paisley Park, a juicy pre-tour tidbit Ruess divulged at a rare time where the Twin Cities are bleeding a deeper shade of purple.
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
All the hits came in an understandably staggered fashion during the set's back half. A bombastic lead-in left the breakout "We Are Young" sounding bizarrely cavernous. The echoey gymnasium space of Roy Wilkins didn't favor the more barren track. "Carry On," the recession era's version of "Forever Young," was doled out in a much more uplifting fashion in spite of its drearier subject matter. And the intoxicatingly optimistic "Some Nights" launched the standard two-song encore. At this point, Ruess had begun rallying for a louder crowd-one that seemed limited by age to a gentle alto chorus. But the support still felt palpable. Based on Ruess' rarely-discussed history for capable pop constructions, he seems destined to return on a larger stage. In a year or so, the crowd will likely be louder too.
Random Notebook Dump: "How the hell have they been here five days if they played at the Inaugural Ball on Monday?"
Overheard in the Crowd: After a new song entitled, "What the Fuck"...
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